[whatwg] <output> and onforminput

James Graham jg307 at cam.ac.uk
Mon Jun 21 17:14:03 PDT 2004

Lachlan Hunt wrote:
> Ian Hickson wrote:
>> Just to be clear, the WHATWG members intend for _new_ browsers to be able
>> to implement Web Forms 2, with special consideration being made for one
>> particular browser, IE6, due to its large market share.

>  Why should it matter that 
> Internet Explorer has a large market share?

Because web authors will not build sites that don't work for 9/10 of 
their visitors. Therefore, if the spec isn't IE compatible, it won't be 
adopted - there are a vast array of such neglected specs to choose from 
if you want data to back this up. It seems like a waste of time to 
specify something that all the available evidence suggests will go unused.

>  Last time I checked, 
> Microsoft wasn't even involved with this WG, so what makes you think 
> they're even slightly interested in implementing any of the new features 
> that you're introducing? 

The idea is that they don't need to be because it will be possible to 
use the mechanisms available for extending Internet Explorer (e.g. HTCs) 
to implement (much of) the spec without the aid of Microsoft.

> It would be much better if, rather than trying 
> to support an all-but-dead browser (being kept alive only by the 
> millions of non-technical web users who don't know any better, or know 
> how to install another)

Being kept alive only by the fact that it's a factor of about 9 more 
popular than all the other browsers combined, by the fact that many 
sites (and intranets) are coded to work specifically in it and by the 
fact that it comes with almost every PC sold.

>, there was a campaign to either get IE to 
> support existing standards

"Hi, Microsoft, we're a consortium of your competitors and we'd really, 
really like it if you supported more web  standards so more people could 
switch to our products more easilly".

FWIW, there do seem to be mechanisms for contacting the IE team at 
Microsoft so if you think that IE should support more existing standards 
you can suggest this. However there is considerable evidence that they 
aren't really interested in doing more HTML/CSS/etc. and have 
specifically  requested a comprehensive test suite. Insofar as 
understand the matter, a comprehensive test suite is essentially 
impossible  to produce (at the smplest level, just because of the 
combinatorics involved)

>, or to educate many more users about the 
> benefits of switching, and how to install Mozilla, Opera, Safari or some 
> other standards compliant browser.

Educating users is hard because you have to convince them to:
Give up something familiar
Give up something that basically works


Take up something new and unfamiliar (maybe after downloading and 
installing it -  many users don't know how to install software)
Take up something that doesn't work so often (many pages still work best 
in IE)

In any case, the people likely to be good at writing specs that extend 
the functionality of HTML (something that browser-switching campaigns 
don't do)  are unlikely to be the same people who are good at convincing 
people to switch from a browser that appears to work to one that 
sometimes appears to be broken. Therefore the two efforts can happily 
coexist with no loss of resources to either.

>   I think I said this best in my comment on Mezzoblue, so I'll just 
> point you there.
> http://www.mezzoblue.com/archives/2004/06/09/whats_next/comments/#c005597

I would be a lot more convinced by your arguments if you could 
demonstrate that there is any significant mobility toward XHTML. Almost 
all sites that claim to be XHTML are parsed as badly-written HTML. To 
extend XHTML in the standard way, it has to be parsed as XML. Apart from 
being incompatible with IE, this is incompatible with the vast majority 
of existing content management systems, the vast majority of  existing 
authoring practices. Confining new developments to XHTML makes them 
useless for the foreseeable future (see also the sites that use images 
to display maths content even though both Mozilla based browsers and IE 
(with a plugin) support MathML).

You also seem to believe that everything the W3C does is automatically 
good and useful.

As far as I can see, the premise of the WHAT effort is that "worse is 
better" - i.e. it's better to have a spec that extends the widely used 
but theoretically imperfect HTML 4 than one that is confined to a 
theoretically sound but useless in practice XML namespace.

"If anybody ever tells you that you’re using the language incorrectly, 
just yell 'prescriptive grammarian!' at the top of your voice and all 
the linguists in the building will run over and surround the guy... and 
then they’ll rough him up"

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